Road Trip

How To Prepare For A Road Trip

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It’s all about how to prepare for a road trip today. Oh, my gosh, as soon as I typed the word road trip, I had a flashback of the 1970s. Mark and I had a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle without air conditioning and not even a radio. Those were the days of carefree living and our hair blowing in the wind with the windows rolled down.

We drove that car all over the place and when gas was like $.29 a gallon as I remember. My dad always told me to drive with water in the car, so I know we had some water in the car to put in the radiator if we needed it. Little did we know at the time that VW Bugs didn’t have a radiator. We usually took a small cooler with sandwiches we could eat when we got hungry. I know we didn’t have much in the way of an emergency car kit because no one talked about them back then. Sure, we had a few tools and a jack, but that was about all. We were so young, and things have changed.

Road Trip Suggestions

Make a Budget/Plan Trip

It’s critical you have a budget before the trip starts or you may spend way more money than you had planned. Make a list of the things you need to budget for and write them down. Have a family meeting and go over the expenses. For instance here is a list to get you started:

  • Make a list: for each day of the vacation (list expenses allotted for each day-this will keep you on your budget).
  • Gas: it can vary depending on the hills you may have to climb with your car or if you run into a lot of traffic and you’re parked at a standstill for hours. We need to be flexible, within reason.
  • Lodging: you may save money if you book your sleeping arrangements ahead of time. On the other hand, it’s sometimes stressful if you want to stay longer in a city that you were not planning on. Allow enough time to make life simple by making reservations with a little give and take if possible. If you like to book lodging when you make it to the city, hopefully, you can find a room or two. It would all depend on how popular that day of the week or time of the year is for traveling in that location. Look for lodging that offers a continental breakfast, that’s one less meal you have to purchase.
  • Food/Snacks: make a list of the restaurants you want to visit and check the menus online before you leave. Budget food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and ice cream or other treats.
  • Excursions/Admission Fees: Add the budget amount of each excursion or admission fee you have planned for each day.
  • Rental Car: if you need to rent a car, look at all the scrapes and possible dents or chips on the car BEFORE you drive off with a rental. Check with your insurance agent to see if it makes sense to buy additional insurance when you rent the car.
  • Totals: check the total for each day and add all the days together to balance with your budget. If you use money envelopes (as I do) keep the envelopes in a safe and secure place.
  • Write a journal as you go, thank you, Cheryl!
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Car Maintenance

It’s a great idea to get your fluid levels checked in your car before you pile the family in the car for any road trip. Have the car serviced and rotate the tires if needed, and have them checked to see if they are safe enough to travel with your family. If you get them rotated they will check the pressure which is critical for saving gas in the long run.

Wash the Car

I LOVE a clean car, literally. I like the smell of a freshly washed car and sparkling clean windows. Next, remove any trash that may be hiding in the car somewhere. Make sure you stash a few garbage bags in the car, to keep the car clean while you travel. I know, the windows may get fingerprints as you travel, but hey, let’s start with a clean car.

Emergency Car Kit

Emergencies or disasters/events can strike at any time, so having certain items in your vehicle can be lifesaving. Place items in a backpack, gym bag, or another container. Be careful about storing items that may be damaged or compromised in extreme heat situations.

  • Names and phone numbers of who to contact in an emergency.
  • Pictures of family members (2 sets) one for an emergency board and one picture to keep in your possession.
  • Pictures of pets (2 sets), one for an emergency board, and one picture to keep in your possession.
  • Medical records of your pets, this is critical if you find a shelter that will accept pets, many will not (unless you have a pet for medical reasons).
  • Pet 72-hour kit with an extra leash, water/food dishes, and food.
  • Pet crate or cat litter box with extra bags to dispose of waste.
  • Emergency toilet with toilet paper, 10-gallon bags, and kitty litter.
  • Battery/crank-powered portable radio/extra batteries.
  • Flashlight/preferably one with solar/crank/LED.
  • Compass and maps; not everyone has GPS in their car or on their phones.
  • Can of motor oil.
  • Fire Extinguisher (5-pound ABC type).
  • Flares and/or orange cones.
  • Jumper cables.
  • Rags/paper towels.
  • Shovel.
  • Pocketknife.
  • Tire gauge.
  • Toolbox.
  • Window scraper for ice.

Necessities for car survival:

  • Water (rotate water often as heat will affect the safety of drinking it-thank you, Judy (you could use it to pour on your head to cool you down if overheated).
  • Food
  • Blankets
  • Jackets/sweaters
  • Emergency cash: approximately $200.00 in small bills
  • First Aid Kit
  • Baby Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer/bars of hand soap
  • Toothbrushes, deodorant (non-meltable type)
  • Scissors/pens/pencils (not crayons-they melt)
  • Emergency snack food and/or MRE meals (items may need to be replaced more frequently if stored in extreme heat conditions).
  • Whistles
  • Umbrella
  • Hand warmers
  • Extra blankets
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Emergency Car Kits by Food Storage Moms

Pack Fewer Clothes

If you can pack lightly, do it. I use these when traveling because it organizes my suitcase and I pack less stuff. eBags Luggage Organizers

You can actually fill these with the items you travel with most and keep them packed in your luggage ready to go for any road trip. Once you buy them you can pick up and go on any trip in a car or plane by just adding clothes and sweaters.

If you think back on trips you have taken, you probably didn’t wear all the clothes you took. Pack less and wash some clothes if you have to along the way at your place of lodging.

Road Maps

I know we have GPS in our cars and on our phones. But, what if it doesn’t work because of a cell outage or whatever. I highly suggest some road maps. It would be awesome to teach your family how to use them as well. Rand McNally East Coast and Rand McNally West Coast

Make Room In The Car

If you have a Suburban or a minivan, you may have some extra room in your vehicle. It’s a little harder to pack “stuff” in a small sedan, or even some small SUVs. Mark and I have a Honda CRV, it’s a small car, but there’s just the two of us. Sometimes I wish I had a bigger car, but this car works for how many road trips we take.

Stop Often/Frequent Stops

Plan a few stops here and there for stretching and some bathroom breaks. It’s great for your legs to stretch to ward off possible blood clots in your legs. Plus getting out of the car is awesome for short periods so you’re not as likely to get drowsy.

Stay Entertained On The Road

Plan a few movies for the car, some car games, and books for the family to use while on the road. If you have audible books, those are awesome. It’s nice to have the family interact, but it’s also nice to have some quiet time while on the road.

Healthy Snacks

Remember we all have to live with one another on the road trip. If all we are eating is licorice and doughnuts, we may get cranky. I love both of these, but sometimes packing healthy snacks will make life a little smoother compared to all sugar-coated snacks.

Kids and Cash

If you have the budget to give your kids a little cash, do it. It doesn’t have to be $100.00. It’s a good experience to help them learn to budget with “their money.” They don’t have to ask Mom or Dad what they can spend it on. It’s all about teaching them to make wise decisions on their own.

Splurge If It Works

Sometimes you can’t always stay exactly on your budget, remember to be careful, but realistic. You may never see this city or river again. Stop and enjoy that Gooseberry ice cream.

Final Word

I hope my road trip ideas help you get ready to make memories with your family. When I see trailers, motor homes, and cars packed with luggage I always smile because I know those families are having fun together. They will always remember the memories of traveling together. Thanks for being prepared for the unexpected, even in your car. May God bless this world. Linda

This is where I purchase all my garden seeds: SeedsNow

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  1. I love road trips! I am hoping/planning to take one this fall (well, early fall). Since I am single, this also raises another issue – safety on the road. It is important for singles of any age to be very aware of their surroundings on their road trip(s).

    I recall a trip (not a road trip) to Hawaii a few years ago with my daughter and my partner & his 2 kids. I had budgeted an amount of cash for my daughter to spend as she wished for trinkets, souvenirs and activities. I suggested to my partner that he do the same with his kids. He didn’t. (by the way, we did not live together but were in a “dating” situation so I had no control over what he did with his kids) Well, when my daughter wanted to do something specific, I asked if she had the money to do so. My partner’s kids had to ask him for money and they both refused to ask. So, when it came time for my daughter to pursue her “shopping” and “activities” she and I went out on our own because the other kids didn’t have the money to go and wouldn’t ask dad for any. My daughter took hula lessons (real hula!) and when we all went to the luau that was prepaid, my daughter got up on stage and performed the hula she had learned. I recall my partner’s daughter being very upset that she had not taken the hula lessons as well. None of the kids had a particularly good vacation that year! My daughter said later that she and I should have gone alone and my partner said after the trip that he should have explained the finances to his kids. By the way, our girls were 18 and his son was 17!

    I would also suggest that no matter where you live, see your state/province first!! It is great to take long road trips to other places but there are gems where we live. I am retired and I have taken many road trips around my state. I grew up in Washington state but there are many places I had never had a chance to explore. I actually have a journal that I write a bit about my road trip to read about later. I am not into buying souvenirs now as they generally don’t see the light of day any more but I am about the experiences.

    1. Hi Leanne, great comment! I need to add see your state/province to the post! I love road trips as well. I no longer bring back souvenirs because #1 I don’t want to dust them, and I don’t want stuff anymore. Life is so good visiting those places you haven’t been before. I love your notebook idea. I love it! Linda

    2. I always gave my kids pocket money even for daytrips done locally. Now I give myself pocket money, lol. Love your idea of a journal for road trips. My youngest son (20) and my grandson (18) now do their own ‘Staycations’ and explore the region around us, because, like you said, there are gems to see in our own backyard.

  2. Hi Linda,
    Super post as usual! One idea on the rental car – take pictures! Many pictures and angles. We don’t have a smartphone but many people do, but it may save headaches to have pictures in advance. (may also backfire if you ding up the rental car!)
    Still on the GPS idea – nice if you have a smartphone. We don’t, but we belong to AAA, and have to 40 years. I get all the maps we might need before we leave. My husband explains that I am his GPS!
    Usually before we travel we get gift cards. Our local Fred Meyer (Kroger stores) have “double gas points” on gift card purchases, sometimes four times! We will purchase cards for restaurants we prefer, stores we may go in to pick up odds & ends while we are traveling. We sometimes have as much as $1 off on a gallon. We make sure to plot out our route then see if there are Kroger stores with gas stations so we can use that lovely $1 off on a gallon while on our trip!
    We also keep a journal. Start of each day, time, weather, mileage on the car, destination etc.
    We write down each stop and add in any pertinent information. Another thing I do is if I’m taking pictures while we are traveling I will stick a Post-it note on the dashboard – 10:20am, Monterey, or whatever just to jog my memory when I’m looking at the pictures later on.
    And let’s not forget everyone! Carry a copy of Linda’s book with you on your trips so that while you are cruising down the highways & byways you can read through the lists to see what you can catch up on!

    1. Hi Cheryl, you made my day about taking my book in the car!!! That gas tip on Smith’s/Krogers is a HUGE saver!! I like the journal idea, I’m going to add that to my list. Thank you!! I like the gift card idea too! You are so lucky yo get maps and then be your husbands GPS, I love it!!! Linda

  3. Jeffers pet supply online carries a small chamois ball that is fantastic for cleaning smudges off the windows. I just recently found those and ordered enough to put one in each family member’s vehicle. Cost was under $3 each. I will be re ordering for Christmas gifts for friends.

    We too got the maps from AAA and save them. I don’t know if AAA still prints TripTiks, but we have saved those from when we were first married. We also carry a good road atlas.

    If we travel my husband programs the GPS in the truck and I read the paper map! It has come in handy when GPS sent us onto every toll road in So. Florida when we took our camper down to visit family. Toll roads charge by the axle, so it cost us a pretty penny on the trip there, but we were able to use the paper maps to find a much less expensive way to get home!

    1. Hi BDN, that was a smart move to save all those road maps!! I’m going to look for those chamois balls, what a great tip! It’s also a fabulous Christmas gift! I love it! Linda

  4. Linda, what an excellent article. Sure brought back memories of my college years when “road trip!” were 2 of our favorite words. What’s really humorous is that 100 miles was a Long ways back then. If we had a problem, we counted on the kindness of strangers. First car I bought (right before college) was a ’71 AMC Javelin. I was pretty cool, lol. The backseat had a new thing, where I could pull a tab to drop it down to access the trunk. My mom made me a box of emergency supplies, threw in a cooler, easily accessible thru the back seat. Dad added a full gas can, 2 qts oil, electrical tape, duct tape, and a jug of water. ‘Course, he put these in by opening trunk. Mom said sometimes girls shouldn’t get out of car so she loved the easy access to trunk. So then my dad added my weed machete to the stuff by backseat. (Yes, mine, as I did farm work summers). Lmao to this day. But I was Set for road trips in college!

    1. OH Wendy, I love your comment! I remember those 100-mile road trips!! The Javelin, oh you were driving in style! The weed machete is the best!! You go, girl! Linda

  5. I wish this article would have come out before my youngest son did his first solo trip, even tho by plane. I would have printed it out for him. It probably would have saved him from a rather miserable week. (This guy is a Planner, but still only 20…) His girl was asked/paid by her grandparents to come to Oklahoma City to housesit/dog watch for a month. After 2 weeks, she asked my son to come down, and she would pay for more than half his roundtrip ticket. Sounded great…he had PTO he’d never used. I thought it was a great way for him to see a different part of our country. Um, I think the not-so-good started at the airport when he was told he needed to pay $30 more for his carry-on bag. Bad transfer at Chicago. Worse ride to OK. Met up with girl, and starving! Got to her grandparents…practically no food there. My kid knows how to make magic soup bone soup, so for him to say ‘no food’ really means this. He made her take him to McDonald’s in morning, then find a Walmart for him to purchase food. She complained he was using too much gas in her grandparents car?!! He wanted to explore the area…nope, she wanted to stay in. They only went to one restaurant (pretty cheap) where they met up with one of her relatives and his girl. Um, it was expected that my son pay the tab. My son said most days were spent arguing: about money mostly. And my son Had listened to me when I told him to go to chamber of commerce or the tourist board for cheap and free things. She didn’t want to try those things.By the time his week was up, he’d spent over $200 for quicky meals, fast food, gas in car. Yet hadn’t done any sightseeing.
    My son was a little worried about ‘what the hell else would happen’, so he asked me to put money in his acct. We were luckily able for me to do this. Oh, and it cost again $30 for carry-on! I added a bit extra so he and my grandson (his pick-up person) could go have a Huge breakfast.
    I don’t think my son will travel again far from home without knowing a lot more, having a lot more extra money. Frankly, I do know he would have read, thought about, acted on your suggestions.

    1. Hi Wendy, I love your comment! It’s too bad it turned out to be such an expensive learning curve. It may be a blessing in disguise. He probably will not forget the house with NO FOOD. I had to giggle over the money for the HUGE breakfast, I’m sure it much appreciated. Linda

  6. I am totally sold on the idea of frequent stops. One time while driving to my younger brother’s house (a 3 and a half hour drive) we stopped at every rest stop and despite what those who are in a hurry to get there may think, it really does seem to make the trip quicker because you are travelling from stop to stop instead of endless hours from home to your destination. The trip is much less stressful and stopping often alleviates that boredom and anxiety passengers experience trying to be patient yet wishing the ride was over or would end as soon as possible.
    Stopping provides a physical and mental break from the driving or riding for the passengers and being able to stretch, walk, use the bathroom and just move around feeling the air and seeing the activity around you is a real stress reliever. A bathroom break and a soda or a snack to take with you is a cheap and simple pleasure.

    1. Hi Frank, I totally agree with you! Frequent stops make all the difference like you said, a physical and mental break. Plus it may help alleviate the chance of blood clots in or legs, etc. Great comment, thank you! Linda

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